Commentary: Seasonal Disasters at Smith
Women in Movement: Politically, Geographically, Economically, Intellectually
By Maya Norton '02
Meridians: Feminism, Race, and Transnationalism, a joint project of Smith College and Wesleyan University, is the first scholarly peer-reviewed journal to address the expansion of the women's studies field into areas of ethnicity and identity. Written by women of color, about women of color, and specifically for women of color, Meridians seeks to explore women's worldwide experiences with class, culture and geography. Senior editor Kum-Kum Bhavnani hopes that Meridians will galvanize conversation in the academic community on topics of women's relationships with themselves and their cultures to produce a generation of scholarly literature on issues affecting the lives of women of color.
Planning for Meridians began three years ago, when Smith President Ruth Simmons proposed her vision to the college's women's studies department. The journal quickly evolved into a collaboration, with Douglas Bennet, president of Wesleyan University; Thomas Radko, director of the Wesleyan University Press; and the Wesleyan African American studies department providing support for the project. Susan Van Dyne, chair of Smith's women's studies department, acted as coordinator of the seven-member Smith/Wesleyan editorial collective, which has been meeting for the past two years to launch the project.
The journal is guided by a local editorial group of Smith and Wesleyan faculty members and by a national board of leading scholars, activists and artists, including such notables as Toni Morrison, Angela Davis, Wilma Mankiller, Vandana Shiva, Naawel el Saadawi and Ama Ata Aidoo.
The inaugural issue of Meridians highlights pieces from professors, theorists, storytellers and scholars. Smith professor Ginetta Candelario's article "Hair Race-ing: Dominican Beauty Culture and Identity Production" is in the essays section alongside Marilyn Miller's article "Mixed-blood Mediation and Territorial Re-Inscription in Ceremony," and two articles exploring transnationalism in the feminist movement, by Sonia Alvarez and Amrita Basu. Other authors include Meena Alexander, Ann duCille, Rachel Lee and Kathleen Nutter.
Senior editor Kum-Kum Bhavnani, who came to the post in late July, adds Meridians to a list of academic accomplishments that include a professorship at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in the sociology department; the publication of more than 40 scholarly papers, including several co-authored with Angela Davis; and a multitude of honors and awards. She also served as an observer in the 1994 South African elections, when Nelson Mandela was elected to office. Bhavnani believes that, in part, her perspective has been shaped by her personal migration from India to England to California. "It has allowed me to have different ways of seeing things, because as an outsider you see things insiders can't see," she says. Bhav-nani reflects that when she began her career in academia, women's studies depart- ments were just being established. She is enthusiastic about her role in pushing the field toward a wider perspective that will address the issues of women of color.
Bhavnani recognizes the demand for such a feminist journal, saying that the field of women's studies is becoming more multidisciplinary and inclusive. "You can't get change until you look at culture in totality," she says. She believes the need for a journal like Meridians is "urgent because of both the promises and inequalities that result from globalization. When you look at whose interests are central to reducing poverty and injustice, and how best to do that, you have to focus on women." Women of color are becoming "catalysts to create the condition of change."
Three Smith students have Meridians
internships. Bhavnani wants the journal to be a part of students'
lives as members of the Smith community and the academic world.
"I want the journal to speak to younger women, so I'm hoping
the interns will help me in thinking how to do this," she
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